Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Donald Trump’s global golf tour hits Ireland

Trump set for a round at the Doonbeg course on the Irish Atlantic Ocean coast that he bought in 2014

US President Donald Trump waved to protesters while playing golf at Turnberry golf club, Scotland, in 2018. AP
US President Donald Trump waved to protesters while playing golf at Turnberry golf club, Scotland, in 2018. AP

The last time Donald Trump stayed at one of his golf resorts on a diplomatic trip to Europe, a paraglider flew past his heavily defended hotel with a protest banner that read: “Trump: well below par.”

It hasn’t put him off.

Eleven months on from a UK visit that was overshadowed by thousands of protesters and a blimp shaped like nappy-clad president, Mr Trump is heading back to Britain and swinging hard.

After meeting Queen Elizabeth, attending a state banquet and having farewell talks with soon-to-depart Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Trump’s global golf tour will arrive at the Trump International Golf Links, on the west coast of Ireland, on Wednesday.

For the president, it will be a return to the relative refuge of a Trump family-owned property – he bought the golf complex in the village of Doonbeg in 2014.

Mr Trump has reportedly spent millions redeveloping and reshaping the course, originally designed by Australian golfer Greg Norman, and turning it into something “really spectacular”.

Building work of another kind was in progress last week with scaffolding erected around the course overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland’s County Clare.

The towers will allow the president’s security detail to monitor his safety as he plays.

A lorry-load of new golf carts also arrived at the hotel – they are expected to be used by officials while the president plays.

A member of An Garda Siochana (Irish Police officer) stops traffic at U.S. President Donald Trump's Doonbeg golf course for security checks ahead of an upcoming visit to his golf course in the County Clare village of Doonbeg, Ireland, May 28, 2019. Picture taken May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
An Irish police officer stops traffic at the Doonbeg golf course for security checks. Reuters

The course is off-limits to visitors on Wednesday, according to the online booking system, and the hotel is booked out for four days as part of the preparations. A no-fly zone will be in operation above the 400-acre site.

Mr Trump is due to meet Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar on Wednesday in Shannon, but there are rumours of a disagreement over the location for their meeting.

Mr Trump reportedly wanted to meet at the golf club, while the Irish authorities wanted a more neutral venue.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy premier, said reports of a stand-off were exaggerated. Mr Trump, who will be accompanied by his wife Melania in Ireland, will travel to France on Thursday, where he will meet Emmanuel Macron as part of commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Mr Trump’s golfing real estate portfolio is predominantly in the United States but includes two courses in Scotland, one in the Republic of Ireland and two – one under construction – in Dubai.

His Scottish courses include one of the world’s most famous, Turnberry on the west coast, where Mr Trump stayed when he visited the UK last year. Protesters gathered at the perimeter of the complex and booed as he played a round during his private visit to Scotland at the end of his trip.

The president has sunk more than £150m into his Scottish golf courses but has yet to make a profit, prompting questions about whether his divisive leadership has harmed his business interests. The two resorts of Turnberry and a second near Aberdeen posted a combined loss of £4.6m in 2017.

Mr Trump bought the Doonbeg course in 2014 two years before running for the presidency, after the previous owners faced money problems during the global financial crisis.

In an interview shortly after the purchase, Mr Trump claimed that he had “closed the deal in less than five hours.”

“There are not a lot of people who are able to do that,” he told the Irish Times.

Environmental campaigners told Irish media that the focus of protests against Mr Trump during his visit to the country would be in Dublin after organisers met villagers who were concerned at the impact any protests could have on their livelihoods.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe poses for a selfie with U.S. President Donald Trump at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, Japan, May 26, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media. Courtesy of Instagram @kantei, Prime Minister's Office, Japan/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe poses for a selfie with US President Donald Trump at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, Japan. Instagram, Japanese Prime Minister's Office

Campaigners in Britain have said they would march against the president in a protest dubbed ‘Stand Up to Trump’ on June 4 during the London leg of his visit.

Protesters will gather in London’s Trafalgar Square to “declare a Trump-free zone” and then “marching to wherever he is,” according to a Facebook campaign.

Police have told protesters that they cannot march the full length of Whitehall, the heart of government decision-making, but will be stopped at a point where they have a “clear view of the access to Downing Street”.

Even before launching his bid to become president, Mr Trump regularly criticised Barack Obama for his time on the golf course. He tweeted about his predecessor playing dozens of times and then on the campaign trail in 2016 he told rallies, “I'm going to be working for you, … I'm not going to have time to go play golf."

But now, Mr Trump’s passion for golf has become a storyline of his presidency. His trip to Britain follows a visit to Japan where he played golf with its premier Shinzo Abe, who is seeking a favourable trade deal with the US.

Updated: June 3, 2019 09:43 AM

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